In 1922, on a bleak Monday morning, Bill took his position on the start line at Toll Gate. In those days it was considered a huge field, and the number allocated to him was Nelson, 111.
The pistol fired, and as the shot rent the air, off the went and is Bill’s words, “like a crowd of Armenian refugees fleeing the wrath of the Turkish army.”
When Bill got to Hillcrest, his feet were in so much pain, that he took off his rugby boots to inspect his feet. Yes, you read correctly, his RUGBY BOOTS. Blisters had formed on the soles of his feet and a kind follower handed him a pot of brilliantine, which he proceeded to rub on his feet. He returned to the Hotel and knocked back a he plate of bacon and eggs.
Feeling refreshed he pushed onto to Botha’s Hill. When he got to the top of the hill, he found his mate ‘Zulu’ Wade sitting on the bank in poor shape. They took stock of themselves and not moving with the freedom of young athletes, and in Bills words, “rather like tow old ducks suffering from some distressing disorder.”
His mate, Zulu assured him that their condition would improve as soon as his friend arrives on his motorbike. Not having to wait long, the man on the motorbike arrived, took a wicker basket from his carrier, and in the wicker, basket was a delicious chicken curry in a huge snowdrift of rice. The threw it ‘down the hatch’ and happily slugged off to Drummond. Here they ‘hit the pub’ and according to a friend Harold Sulin, Bill had a dozen beers lined up. Harold Sulin came into the pub and said to Bill, “what are you doing here, why don’t you push off, there are only five runners ahead of you and only Newton is miles ahead of the field.”
Bill looked at his number, 111 and wondered what had happened to the other runners. Zulu had ‘one to man’ and wished Bill best of luck and he set off to Maritzburg alone. Along Harrison Flats Bill came across an old lady who had a bottle in one hand and a glass in the other. Bill acknowledged her kindness. “Its peach brandy,” she said and “I made it myself.” Bill finished off the whole tumbler and in a second realised that he had drunk a “near lethal dose of the rawest liquid I have ever tasted.” Bill gave this old lady full credit for the invention of rocket fuel.
Bill continued his ‘merry’ way to Maritzburg and when he passed over Umsindusi Bridge he stopped at his wife’s family house and joined them for tea and cake on their verandah. Whilst sitting having tea on the verandah with his family he was passed by two of his “fiercest rivals’ and Bill eventually finished 8th overall.
It was in the changerooms of the showgrounds that he realised that he had two huger blisters on the soles of his feet. His brother in law, Wilfred Hogg, knowing Bill needs gave him a bottle of champagne with which he was extremely grateful.
The next day, Bill played rugby for Old Collegians – in takkies.
(not the words of, but information obtained from “The DHS Story” by Hubert D. Jennings 1866 – 1966)